While any vehicle on the road is a potential risk for others, dump trucks and garbage trucks present unique risk scenarios, increased possibility of personal injury and property damage, and complicated recovery scenarios. Read on to understand more about these vehicles and the potential truck accidents they cause.
Overview of Dump Trucks and Garbage Trucks
Dump trucks are most well-recognized by the deep, open bed in the back of the truck. The deep bed allows the truck to be filled with items for transport. Dump trucks may be operated by professionals who move debris or materials for a living, or they might be driven by individuals accomplishing a one-time job. Dump trucks are most commonly used in any scenario that requires transportation of materials large in size or large in volume. They are perfectly suited for these jobs because:
- The lack of cover for the truck bed allows oddly shaped or sized items to fit easily;
- The durability of the frame and tires allow dump trucks to travel easily through construction sites; and
- Its deep bed allows large items to fit comfortably.
The things that make dump trucks perfect for transporting materials also make them a particular hazard on the road.
The name of the garbage truck leaves little mystery to its purpose—these trucks are meant to pick-up and transport garbage. Fleets of garbage trucks are either operated by the city or county or by a private company that has contracted with the local government.
One of the unique functions of a garbage truck is its ability to compact trash. The trash compactor actively compacts trash while the garbage truck is completing its garbage collection rounds. This enables garbage trucks to carry significantly more garbage without having to stop and unload.
Modern-day garbage trucks include packer blades. While safety measures should accompany the operation of the vehicles, accidental death or dismemberment is possible if a worker is caught inside a garbage truck hopper while the packing blade is actuated. For this reason, trash collector is commonly listed as one of the most dangerous jobs, ranking as the fifth highest for work civilian work injuries in 2016.
As sustainability becomes increasingly important, similar truck models are also being used to optimize recycling and yard waste pick-up.
Understanding the Risks
There is no doubt that dump trucks and garbage trucks pose unique risks to other drivers. These risks include:
- Flying debris from a dump truck bed and as garbage is loaded into a garbage truck;
- The loads carried by the trucks are more likely to contain flammable or hazardous materials which increase the likelihood of injuries in a crash;
- These vehicles stop and start frequently as they load and unload items. This is very common with garbage trucks who stop regularly on their routes;
- Garbage and dump trucks have large blind spots, creating limited visibility, which can be especially dangerous when backing up or changing direction;
- The heavy duty nature of the trucks increases the likelihood that they will do serious damage upon coming into contact with a person or property; and
- Large trucks stop much more slowly than regular vehicles, so any sudden stops or starts near a dump truck or garbage truck can increase the risk of a collision.
Statistics confirm that these trucks are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) puts together an annual report on Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts. The most recent report from 2017 shows that of 4,657 fatal crashes involving buses and large trucks:
- 380 involved dump trucks; and
- 107 involved garbage trucks.
Both of these numbers were higher than 2015 and 2016 data, demonstrating an uptick in fatal accidents. It’s important to note that this data only reflects fatal crashes. The numbers increase exponentially when you factor in non-fatal crashes.
Complexities of Dump Truck and Garbage Truck Accidents
If you are involved in an accident with a dump truck or garbage truck, it can present unique challenges for recovery.
First, given the size and power of the vehicles involved, these accidents could cause personal injury as well as property injury. Your property could be damaged even if you personally are not involved in the accident, as a San Antonio business owner learned after their property was smashed by a dump truck. San Antonio is also no stranger to accidents involving garbage trucks.
Second, recovery is not as straightforward as contacting the insurance company of the truck driver. You will need to dig into the following:
- Who owns the truck. Dump trucks and garbage trucks are often commercial vehicles. A dump truck may be owned by a construction company and driven by an employee, or it might be owned by a rental company and driven by the renter. Garbage trucks are likely to be owned by the city, county, or a private company. The owner and their relationship to the driver are likely to reflect your recovery options.
- Driver’s license. To legally drive a dump truck or garbage truck, the driver must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). If the driver did not have the appropriate license, this may make the determination of fault more straightforward.
- Employer liability. If the driver was acting in their duties as an employee, you may have an action against the employer, especially if the employer failed in their responsibilities for training or maintaining the truck. The FMCSA requires that drivers and employers to follow regulations it issues, and if they are found to have fallen short, this increases the likelihood they will be found liable.
- Poor road conditions. If the accident was caused, even in part, by hazardous road conditions, the city or county may bare part of the responsibility for the accident.
What Are the Next Steps?
As with any accident, make sure that you prioritize taking care of injuries, filing a police report, documenting the scene, and securing contact information for any witnesses. Once these immediate needs are handled, you should take time to consider what your options for recovery are. As discussed above, this can be a complicated analysis. If you are struggling to determine your next steps, consider reaching out to an attorney for support.